As the rain pours down wildly outside, I, my dear friend, have a story to tell you. Here’s your glass of whisky, as hot as the house fire. Make yourself comfortable.
Many moons ago, I was travelling across vast lands of Eastern Europe. What took me there, I still do not know, but it was the people who made me stay. They are very honest, Eastern Europeans…very open and humble people.
I made myself a guest at an old hotel in the old town of Kaunas. How old, you ask me? Old enough to carry its ghosts.
After a long day of scouting the streets of a rather charming city, I came back to the hotel and decided to have dinner in their restaurant, since it was too late to go elsewhere.
When I entered the overwhelmingly beautiful restaurant for such a small hotel, I saw only one person sitting there, as if in waiting. He noticed me and waved immediately to suggest that I shall accompany him. He was an elderly man, very well dressed yet somewhat weary. I sat in front of him, glimpsed at his blue eyes which seemed like a gaze that lasted for eternity. Before I could introduce myself, he spoke with a voice so melodic, I was suddenly mesmerised.
‘A guest…at my home.’ He smiled briefly before his concerned expression took over. ‘What were they thinking! Fools thought I would allow it.’
‘I…I’m sorry, would you like me to leave?’ I said without thinking.
‘Oh no, dear boy, sit with me for a while. No one ever does. It gets lonely here.’ He sighed with melancholy that pressed into my chest. All of a sudden, I felt that gulp in my throat one gets before weeping. Before I could respond he went on. ‘They see me here all the time but they pretend not to. It’s strange how they are sad to see one go but once one stays, it becomes a problem.’ He chuckled to himself. ‘Why are you here?’ He asked abruptly, with in-a-matter-of-fact tone.
‘I have been travelling…sir.’ I stuttered.
‘Would you mind if I accompanied you?’ He laughed at my expression, which must have been bewildered. ‘Don’t worry, boy. You sitting with me is kind enough. That’s all I needed…and there’s one more thing I need from you.’ His eyes were like an abyss looking back at me.
‘Yes?’ I inquired, but not reluctantly. There was something about this man that felt…good. He was a good man. I smiled at the thought and he smiled back as if he heard what I was thinking.
He pulled something out of the pocket in his jacket, which I only now noticed was covered in what looked like dirt.
‘Someone needs to be paid a visit to. Could you please take this candle and light it for that someone in a courtyard? It’s a tradition, you see, to pay respect to the owner of the home you stay in.’
I took the candle into my hand without hesitating.
‘Thank you.’ He looked over my shoulder and said, ‘I will now let you enjoy your dinner, son.’ He smiled and stood up to leave. A waitress approached me with plate full of food…none of which I ordered.
I turned around to look where the man has gone, but there was no one around. After dinner I went to the moonlit courtyard and in the middle of it there was a lonely grave. I approached it with a lit candle in my hands and under the candle light I saw a portrait of a man who handed me the candle. I placed it by the gravestone, next to the year of his supposed death, which happened 50 years ago.
Since then, I saw him once, in my dream. We were in the same restaurant, with wine glasses in front of us. We were only looking at each other until he spoke.
‘When I left the room, I left it for the last time in those 50 years. I now thank you for letting me go, a stranger…and I will let you go too. Safe travels.’
There was suddenly a bright light and I woke up with the morning light in my eyes and a burning candle on the bedtable.
I was never lonely since.